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Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes Revision Notes | Sociology Class 11 - Humanities/Arts PDF Download

Introduction


In Introducing Sociology (refer to pages 28-35), it is highlighted that each individual holds a unique position in the social structure and system of social stratification. As a result, their access to social resources may vary both in terms of type and degree, which is often determined by their socioeconomic class. This underscores the importance of understanding the dialectical relationship between the individual and society, which has been a key objective of the sociological approach. To comprehend this dynamic interaction, we need to discuss the three essential concepts of structure, stratification, and social processes in this chapter.

Social Structure

  • The term "social structure" pertains to the general organization or structure of society.
  • Social structure often refers to the consistent patterns or regularities found in human behavior and relationships.
  • Underlying patterns and regularities are present in the way people interact with each other, as seen through repeated behaviors across different times and spaces.
  • The concepts of social reproduction and social structure are intertwined in sociology due to this repetition of patterns, as seen in the establishment of institutions such as schools, where processes like admissions, dress codes, annual events, daily assemblies, uniforms, and anthems are observed and repeated over time.

Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes Revision Notes | Sociology Class 11 - Humanities/Arts

As a result, modifications are made to the social institutions' structure. Either cooperative behaviour or major conflict brought on by rivalry results in a change.
The pattern of human behaviour connected to cooperation and conflict is explained by two main elements.

  • Emile Durkheim emphasized that societies exercise social control over the actions of their members. He believed that society has a solidity similar to physical structures, and that it exists independently of individual actions. Durkheim's perspective places society before the individual.
  • While Karl Marx and other social theorists acknowledge the constraints of social structure, they also recognize the capacity of human agency and creativity to both maintain and transform social structures.

Social Stratification

  • Social stratification is the systematic inequalities between social classes in terms of access to physical and symbolic rewards. While social stratification is present in all societies, modern societies are characterized by stark differences in income and power. 
  • While class is the most apparent form of stratification in contemporary societies, other factors such as race, caste, location, community, tribe, and gender still play a significant role as the foundation of social stratification. Inequality within social stratification is not randomly spread among people in society but is systematically linked to participation in various social groups. 
  • Members of higher-ranked groups tend to pass on their privileged status to their offspring. Thus, the term "stratification" refers to the idea that society is divided into a consistent pattern of unequal groups, which tend to endure across generations. Social stratification serves to meet the needs of different strata, as no one can fulfill all their demands alone. 
  • A social structure consists of social units and patterned relationships that form a unique set of relationships between different units. Social structure is what makes the external, relatively permanent, and abstract form of society apparent. The most apparent types of stratification in contemporary societies are those based on class, race, caste, religion, community, tribe, and gender.

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A form of social stratification known as the caste system includes the following characteristics:

  • Social and religious disadvantages faced by different groups.
  • Coexistence and dietary limitations.
  • Constraints on marital relationships.
  • Limitations on career options.

Some of the fundamental benefits that advantaged groups may enjoy are:

  • Life chances refer to the tangible benefits that enhance a person's quality of life, including wealth, income, health insurance, job stability, and leisure time.
  • Social status is the level of respect or importance a person holds in society.
  • Political influence involves one group's ability to exert power and control over another group based on their decision-making capabilities.
  • Social structure and stratification impact the opportunities and resources available to individuals and groups, shaping their ability to compete, collaborate, and engage in conflict.

Methods used in sociology to study social processes


Sociology seeks to understand the processes of collaboration, rivalry, and conflict within the social structure of society. Both the conflict and functionalist perspectives recognize the importance of cooperation in fulfilling fundamental human needs and reproducing society and its environment.

  • The conflict perspective focuses on how cooperation differs across historical societies and how the system of production relations can create conflict and rivalry between groups. It recognizes the potential for hidden conflicts of interest in daily interactions between groups, such as between factory owners and workers. Additionally, it highlights how society is divided along caste, class, or patriarchal lines, with some groups experiencing discrimination and disadvantage.
  • The functionalist perspective emphasizes the specific functional requirements of society, such as integrating new members, communication mechanisms, and assigning responsibilities to people. It assumes that various components or organs of society have a role or function to play in maintaining and operating society. The functional approach acknowledges that collaboration, competition, and conflict are universal characteristics of all societies, with complex and interrelated relationships between them.

Social Processes

  • Social processes refer to the various actions individuals undertake while operating within the confines of a particular social organization.
  • Sociologists seek to elucidate social processes by utilizing the existing social structure and society, as well as adopting a pluralistic understanding of society.
  • MacIver and Page describe social process as "the continuous change that takes place in a specific manner within the social structure."
  • Consequently, social processes, or the process of social interaction, result from social contact.
  • Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim both assert that humans must collaborate to meet their basic needs and to produce and reproduce themselves and their environment.

Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes Revision Notes | Sociology Class 11 - Humanities/Arts

Cooperation

  • The act of two or more people working together voluntarily and equally towards a common objective is referred to as cooperation, which is critical for human society's survival. Cooperation is based on several assumptions about human behavior.
  • Cooperation is a universal and ongoing process that involves both sympathy and empathy for others. Its nature is selfless, and it is essential both on a psychological and social level.
  • Human life would face significant challenges without cooperation, and to meet basic social needs, cooperation is essential, facilitated by the division of labor in society.
  • Associative thinking is a fundamental aspect of cooperation.

Competition

  • Competition can be described as a struggle between individuals or groups vying for a limited resource.
  • It is a widespread and inherent social process present in all human societies, and in modern society, it is a pervasive norm and practice.
  • In contemporary times, competition serves as a driving force for societal functioning.
  • The prevalence of competition in modern capitalist societies fosters individualism as a result.
  • In capitalist societies, the emphasis on trade expansion necessitates mass production in factories with multiple workers.
  • The ideology of competition is the prevailing belief system in capitalism.

Conflict 

  • Conflict and cooperation are distinct social processes, with conflict being characterized by dissociation.
  • While conflict is typically a conscious process, cooperation can sometimes be unconscious.
  • Conflict arises from groups competing for access to scarce resources and control over them within society.
  • Conflicts can have various roots, including caste, class, tribe, gender, ethnicity, or religion.
  • Competition and conflict are distinct processes, with conflict being primarily conscious and competition sometimes being unconscious.
  • Personal ambitions tend to drive conflicts, while goal achievement is the main motivation behind competition.
  • Conflict may not be apparent until it is publicly expressed, and lack of movement does not necessarily mean an absence of conflict.
  • Conflict can coexist with cooperation and may even be necessary for it, with forced and voluntary cooperation having different implications. An example of this is daughters' property rights in Indian society, where asking for those rights may be seen as greedy, while giving them up may be viewed as cooperative. Therefore, cooperative behavior may result from intense social strife.
  • Emile Durkheim argued that collaboration is necessary to achieve certain societal objectives, with the division of labor serving that purpose, while Karl Marx believed that people both cooperate and change society through their interactions.

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Social Accomodation

  • Accommodation is a form of social interaction involving two or more individuals or groups, which seeks to prevent, reduce or eliminate conflict.
  • While cooperation and accommodation are distinct processes, they are also closely related, as both foster the advancement of group life, cohesion, integration, assimilation, and social harmony.
  • Assimilation is a social process that occurs when two or more individuals or groups adopt and emulate each other's behavioral patterns.
  • Accommodation and assimilation represent different phases of the cooperative process, with cooperation focusing on the relationships between individuals or groups to attain a shared goal.

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Cooperation and Labor Division

  • Cooperation is essential for human survival as it simplifies goal achievement and brings individuals together, leading to expanded learning opportunities, especially in the economic sphere.
  • Understanding Durkheim's solidarity is crucial for knowledge cooperation, which involves both organic and mechanical solidarity as examples of social collaboration.
  • Labor division requires cooperation to satisfy particular societal needs.
  • Although Karl Marx and Durkheim both emphasize cooperation, they have differences. Marx argues that collaboration in a class-based society is not voluntary and arises spontaneously from class conflict. This is significantly different from a worker in a factory who may find satisfaction and pleasure in creative work, such as a weaver, potter, or iron smith, and requires cooperation.

Note: I made minor changes in the wording for clarity and coherence.

Organic Solidarity

  • Cohesiveness can be based on various factors such as age, sex, division of labor, specialization, and lifestyle.
  • Social cohesion can be achieved through interdependence and division of labor.
  • A sense of unity can arise among individuals who share common values, attitudes, and awareness, like members of a farming family.
  • With increasing specialization, individuals become more reliant on each other, as can be observed in corporations that specialize in clothing or automobile manufacturing.

Mechanical Solidarity

  • Cohesion can take the form of shared lifestyle, specialization, division of labor, age, and sex.
  • It may be based on a common interdependence and division of labor, as well as shared values, attitudes, and awareness. For example, a farming family may share a common lifestyle and belief system.

Competition as an idea and practice

  • Competition is the pursuit of scarce goods or services through conflict between two or more parties, and it is a ubiquitous and organic social process found in every human society. Although it is a natural process, the social explanation for competition differs from naturalistic explanations. 
  • In modern culture, competition is a widely accepted belief, social norm, and behavior, and it is impossible to imagine a society where competition does not serve as a driving force. 
  • The expansion of trade and large-scale manufacturing in factories, which employ many people, is the primary goal of contemporary capitalism, and both Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim observed the rise of individuality and competition in modern civilization, both of which are fundamental to contemporary capitalism's operation. 
  • The prevailing ideology of capitalism is that of competitiveness, which assumes that everyone competes on an equal footing, and the market operates in a way that maximizes efficiency, such as through competitions for resources, jobs, or education. However, stratification and inequality reveal that people are positioned differently in society, leading to conflict. 
  • Hidden conflict and open cooperation are common coping mechanisms employed by marginalized groups like women or peasants to deal with conflict and promote collaboration. Sociological research has shown that both hidden conflict and open cooperation are widespread in cultures.
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FAQs on Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes Revision Notes - Sociology Class 11 - Humanities/Arts

1. What is social stratification?
Ans. Social stratification refers to the hierarchical arrangement of individuals in a society based on their social status, wealth, and power. It is a way of categorizing people into groups based on their social and economic position.
2. What methods are used in sociology to study social processes?
Ans. Sociology uses various methods to study social processes, including surveys, interviews, participant observation, and experiments. These methods help sociologists to gather data and analyze social phenomena.
3. What is social accommodation?
Ans. Social accommodation refers to the process of adjusting to the norms and values of a particular society or group. It involves adapting to the cultural practices and rules of a community in order to fit in and be accepted.
4. How does competition impact social processes?
Ans. Competition can have both positive and negative impacts on social processes. It can motivate individuals and groups to work harder and achieve more, but it can also lead to conflict and tension between individuals and groups who are competing for limited resources.
5. What is the relationship between social structure and social processes?
Ans. Social structure refers to the stable patterns of social relationships and institutions that exist in a society. Social processes, on the other hand, are the dynamic interactions and activities that occur within a social structure. The two are closely related, as social processes are shaped by social structure and social structure is influenced by social processes.
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